How to Prepare for Disability Hearing
If your application for Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits has been denied, you can pursue an appeal of the denial. Part of that appeals process is a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The administrative hearing is a crucial part of the claims and appeals process, and whether you get the benefits you need depends in large part on how the hearing plays out. Appearing before any sort of judge or administrative body can be intimidating and stressful. The best way to alleviate the anxiety and ensure you present the strongest case possible is to consult with your California Social Security Disability benefits attorney and prepare appropriately. Below, we offer a few tips on how to ensure you are ready for your disability hearing.
Review Your File and Know Your Claim
In advance of your hearing, review your case with your attorney. Review your case file to remind yourself of the claims you are making, the relevant parts of the SSDI statutes that your claim falls under, and your personal history. Study up on your original application and the SSA’s reasons for denying your claim so that you are ready to counter their arguments at the hearing.
Gather Medical Records and Other Relevant Evidence
The ALJ will have evidence you have previously submitted to support your claim. At your hearing, however, you are permitted to submit new evidence. Recent medical records demonstrating the reality and severity of your disability can serve as strong evidence. As soon as your hearing is scheduled, contact your doctors and other providers to collect records of your medical condition that are as up-to-date as possible. You can submit these documents to the ALJ in advance of your hearing. Keep copies for yourself to refer to at the hearing. Those documents will help to demonstrate that you are, indeed, disabled and that your condition has not miraculously improved since your initial application.
You are also permitted to submit witness statements, expert opinions, and other evidence at your hearing. Expert opinions can come from your primary care providers as well as other medical experts. They can write up formal, detailed statements about your condition to supplement, summarize, and explain your condition and its severity. If your case calls for a completed “Residual Functional Capacity” (RFC) analysis, make sure your physician completes an RFC report before your hearing. It might be worth having the doctor complete an updated form before the hearing if you have new symptoms or other details worth including.
Prepare Your Notes and Cheat-Sheets
No one expects you to remember every detail of your medical history, the costs you’ve incurred, and other items in your record. You may, however, be asked to testify about many of these items. At your disability hearing, you can rely on notes that you’ve prepared to help you answer the Administrative Law Judge’s questions.
Discuss your case with your disability lawyer in advance to plan for the questions you can expect to be asked. Having a cheat sheet to rely upon during the hearing can help alleviate the stress and anxiety of the hearing, and it will help you answer truthfully and completely. You can even prepare specific answers to questions you know will be coming, much like a lawyer’s opening statement, to ensure you get your strongest points across. Your benefits are conditioned on you proving to the ALJ that you cannot return to work as a result of your disability; the more you are prepared to prove that point, the better.
Work With a Seasoned Disability Attorney
The best way to get the SSI or SSDI benefits you need is to have the right representation in your corner. Your disability benefits lawyer will help you gather the relevant evidence, prepare your application, gather witness statements and expert reports, prepare for the hearing, and argue your side at the hearing. Applicants with representation have a much better chance of securing benefits, especially after an initial claim denial.
Call Today for Help Securing the California Disability Benefits You Need
For help obtaining disability benefits or appealing a disability benefits denial in Southern California or statewide, call the stellar and successful Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income (SSDI/SSI) attorneys of Drake & Drake at 818-624-4695.